In separate announcements yesterday
, Verizon Wireless and AT&T took welcome steps towards greater openness in the wireless industry. By "openness," I mean the extent to which wireless networks allow the use of devices and services that aren't affiliated with the operators of those networks.
Verizon Wireless said it would work with Google to provide fully open wireless phones running Google's Android operating system. AT&T said that it would start allowing iPhone owners to run VOIP services, including Skype, when connected to AT&T's 3G wireless network. (iPhone users previously could use VOIP only when connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot.)
These are significant announcements in themselves, but they also illustrate a broader trend. Verizon Wireless decided to open its network to third party devices and applications back in 2007 -- a decision CDT applauded
as a "major shift with tremendous potential to spur innovation" -- and the iPhone, despite occasional controversies over the approval process, famously has spurred a huge market in third party applications. In short, carriers are now well aware that open models offer a great deal of commercial power and appeal.
Still, the timing of all this is interesting, coming shortly after the FCC Chairman announced
that the agency plans to propose openness rules that would, for the first time, extend to wireless.
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